We are surrounded by death every day. So much so that we have become numb to it, desensitized. Any time you watch the news or scroll on social media you will see death lurking, whether it is another shooting or bombing, more casualties of war, a celebrity or athlete or politician that has passed away, loss of life due to a flood or earthquake or hurricane. Death is inescapable, the one thing we all have in common, the one and only guarantee. Life is fleeting and precious, something to be appreciated and coveted. Not disregarded with the flick of a thumb as we scroll on to the next headline. Nowadays death has become impersonal, that is, until it becomes personal. We are blessed with the ability to create life, but cursed with the ease of which we can so easily snuff it out.
CRIME SCENE—the Bram Stoker Award-winning dark poetry collection from Cynthia Pelayo—is an exploration not only of death, but specifically of murder, of lives being extinguished before their time. Pelayo taps into the emotions of grief, sadness, confusion, blame, denial, guilt, mourning, and pain. The pollutant byproducts of murder that tarnish our souls. It’s a tangled web with the victim resting at its center, strands connecting together all those who bear the heavy burden of loss. The unfortunate innocent who discovers the body, the friends and family who's loved one will never return, the detective whose job it is to seek out justice in an unjust world.
Differing from Pelayo’s previous poetry collection—INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH—the narrative of CRIME SCENE is told as an epic poem, think THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH or THE ODYSSEY, through a series of reports that depict the chronology of a body discovered by a young brother and sister to the following investigation headed up by the haunted Agent K. The detective has her own past demons that she can’t seem to shake, trailing ever behind her like a shadow. Combine that with the macabre nature of her job dealing day in and day out with mutilated bodies and you have someone who has become tormented by death. Those images have burned into her like a brand searing flesh. She can hide it and cover it up, but that emotional baggage will always linger within the dark recesses of her mind waiting to be stumbled over—the contents spilling out.
I’ve said it before and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I will say it again, the human monsters to me are the most terrifying monsters of all. The capacity that we as humans have to be able to inflict such suffering and pain and death upon our fellow man will forever be far scarier than any fictional monster or creature will ever be. CRIME SCENE focuses heavily on this theme. How we are truly the ones who are not to be trusted. How another may smile to your face but then proceed to stab you in the back, sadly sometimes quite literally.
I loved this passage from Report No. 0078
“Human as monster
Blaming destruction on
Fables and Legends
What’s caused the most
Destruction and suffering
A warm beating heart
Those fables and legends, the vampires and werewolves and boogeymen, those were all birthed from our own imaginations. If our minds are able to create such monsters, what other evils might they be capable of? Maybe they are man's attempt at pretending that there is something worse out there, something more heinous and callous than us?
Cynthia Pelayo’s poetry is sharp, raw, and unrelenting—the blade of a knife flaying away layers of flesh leaving one's nerves exposed. A lyrical danse macabre, CRIME SCENE, casts a morbid light into the shadows to reveal the horrific monsters who wield death with such callousness—to instead find only the reflection of ourselves glaring back. This collection will leave the reader hollowed out and haunted in the best of ways.
Title: Crime Scene
Author: Cynthia Pelayo
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Publication Date: October 13, 2022
Format Reviewed: Paperback